Posted by: Witch Doctor | February 8, 2009

Legal Chill – The Blogosphere responds


Today, The Blogosphere is showing some powerful support for Ben Goldacre.

At the risk of breaking the law of this free country of ours and consequently being beheaded, here are my cuts, pastings and links to some of the things that are being said.

If you don’t want to be locked up in the tower, then please, please read what follows with your eyelids tightly shut, and for pities sake, DON’T CLICK ON THE LINKS!!!!

Are you sitting comfortably and prepared?

This is what I read this morning . But we witches have work to do. However, during the little siestas that I have while gutting out The Midden that has accumulated in The Spell Pantry, I’ll add to the list. I’m fully aware, though, that I’m risking my neck clicking on all the links of “dubious legality” that are entangled in the web that has been woven around this free and pleasant land of ours.

But I’m doing it for you, dear readers…….

Here goes:




“1) Commercial competition. This evidently favours the Bad Science blog as the clip in question was not made available in the Guardian, it was published in a non-profit blog clearly for the purpose of criticism. While one could argue that Ben Goldacre makes a living out of the Bad Science brand (via books and his Guardian column), it is obvious that he is not in the same business as LBC.

2) Public interest. This part of the test also favours Dr Goldacre. There are few topics of more importance than that of health, and the health of children is of particular interest to society. The MMR vaccine scare has been a national shame for many years, one that has even led to an increase in the recurrence of measles amongst the relevant infant population. In my view, there is overwhelming public interest to continue to expose those who perpetuate the lie that there is something wrong with the MMR vaccine, and I strongly believe that any court would be forced to take this view in light of the evidence.

3) The amount and importance of the copied work. This is definitely where Bad Science has some problems, as by any measure the clip is quite extensive. It could be argued that a 20-minute extract from a 3-hour show is not too much, but this is definitely where the plaintiff’s lawyers would have a better chance of success. Nevertheless, I still think that the previous two elements trump the length argument.”

A somewhat old, but capricious handbag

“Three things that really grind my gears about this are:
1. Babies are not epidemiology qualifications. (Tara, who has both, would no doubt agree.)
2. Blah blah all we want is a chance to debate the evidence blah blah big pharma has all the money blah blah take down that criticism or our team of highly-paid lawyers will kick your arse.

Autism News Beat

“This latest example involves Dr. Ben Goldacre who writes the indispensable Bad Science blog and a weekly Guardian column. Goldacre rightly trained his sites on LBC talker Jeni Barnett, an British actress who feels obligated to share what she knows about vaccines and measles. But since she knows so little, Barnet was compelled to fill the rest of her three hour time slot with anti-vaccine talking points, addle-pated weltanschauung, and other assorted brain farts. In the pre-internet age such mindless drivel passed quietly into the ether, and was easily ignored.

Radio personalities such as Jeni Barnett are a symptom of a much larger problem – the dumbing down of the consumer population. As news and entertainment media meld into single, amorphous glob, the line between science and wishful thinking becomes hazier. Exposing Barnett and LBC 97.3 is a little like putting on a pair of reading glasses – it helps us to see the line more clearly, and perhaps recognize our own biases and misperceptions.”

The Scots Law Student

“Apart from this she also shows undue bias towards callers who subscribe to alternative medicine (her first caller introduces herself as a young mother who looked into alternative medicine to keep her children safe but later admits that she is a homeopath and is therefore actually speaking as a businesswoman with the incentive against other forms of medicine that entails) and is dismissive of other opinions – I have included some of the transcript at the bottom of this post to show what I mean – and finally, when talking to a nurse, accuses her and the Government of scaring people in order to make money before apparently hanging up on the caller without allowing her a response.

The situation is already fairly murky due to a sketchy method of reporting in the UK press – for example, unsolicited quotes that were negative to MMR were sent to non-science section reporters in newspapers and, apparently deliberately, kept away from reporters who had the science background to look at the source critically. That is like sending skewed sports results to a business columnist so that they can report your angle and it reeks of unethical practice and quite a worrying trust shown by reporters. Jeni Barnett’s comments will pour yet more oil on these troubled waters.”

Chez Sam’s

“In times when this government is concentrating and campaigning for healthy living and prevention of disease, measures should be taken to stop the likes of this ignoramus swaying public opinion on health matters that are likely to cause long term harm not only to the children involved but to society! Not only stop ignoramus herself but, more importantly, her employers too should be made more responsible so that such programmes are not aired again. IMO, the radio station itself should be made to pay a huge fine for allowing this programme to go on air and for then allowing this woman to go on air with such rubbish unchecked!”

The Great Simpleton

“How Jeni can refer to herself as a responsible broadcaster after admitting her ignorance is beyond me.

No matter what you think of MMR, trying to surpress someone like Ben Goldacre is crass and censorial and I urge you to go and read the story and offer support if you can.”

I Speak of Dreams

“The doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.”



NHS Behind the headlines

“There will always be pros and cons regarding vaccinations, I believe the groups should be left to debate amongst themselves and invent their conspiracies. I do think the media are reckless in featuring their ideas and theories. Then the media wishes to sell stories and it takes no responsibility for the harm they cause. It is a great shame the media magnets cannot be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter. Perhaps if they were held accountable, they would cease to be so reckless.”

The Sunday Times – How the MMR Scare led to the return of measles.

“Last year 84.5% of two-year-olds in the UK received one dose of the MMR vaccine. By age five, when the second dose is due, the rate is 77.9%. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that 95% be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity” (in which unvaccinated individuals are too few and far between to allow an infection to spread).

Through herd immunity, the WHO hoped to eradicate measles by 2010, but there are now “serious doubts” that this will be possible. The UK has been identified as one of the worst European countries for measles – along with Romania, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The high rate of measles in Europe was labelled “embarrassing” by WHO scientists, especially after outbreaks in otherwise measles-free South America were traced back to Europe.”

The Sunday Times – MMR: Key dates in the crisis

“October 1988 MMR triple vaccine starts in UK after use in America since 1971

February 1996 A solicitor, Richard Barr, hires Andrew Wakefield at £150 per hour to support a legal attack on MMR makers as some parents raise concerns over the vaccine

June 1996 Wakefield and Barr ask Legal Aid Board to fund research to show a link between MMR and autism. The board grants them £55,000

July 1996 First autistic child admitted to Royal Free hospital for research project. Of the 12 in the study, 11 will turn out to be litigants”

The Sunday Times – Hidden records show MMR truth

“Yet the science remains a problem. No researchers have been able to replicate the results produced by Wakefield’s team in the Lancet study.

Some used statistics to see if autism took off in 1988, when MMR was introduced. It did not. Others used virology to see if MMR caused bowel disease, a core suggestion in the paper. It did not. Yet more replicated the exact Wakefield tests. They showed nothing like what he said.”

Mark Reckons

“I have listened to the excerpt and Barnett’s inability to grasp basic scientific concepts is utterly shocking. She is also hectoring and rude to the callers who disagree with her.

LBC then contacted Ben and threatened him with legal action if he did not take the clip down. He has now done so, even though he felt that the use of the clip was fair. However I think LBC have grossly underestimated the power of the internet. There is a phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect which says that any attempt to censor or remove a piece of information from the internet is doomed to backfire. Indeed that has proved that case as the excerpt has now been put onto wikileaks and is hosted in all sorts of other places following the threat. In fact it is no exaggeration to say that many more people will now have listened to the clips online due to LBCs actions than would have been the case if they had kept their legal department at bay.”

See Also


“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

“It genuinely never occurred to me – for even half a second – that what I was posting was any kind of infringement of any kind of law at all.”

* “To me I heard a very, very irresponsible piece of broadcasting, but more importantly a very instructive piece of broadcasting (…) particularly in the case of MMR – the media’s irresponsible and misleading reporting has led to quite serious public health outcomes.”

Dr Aust’s Spleen

“One interesting aspect of the new measles figures, highlighted by the Northern Doctor, is that the rates of measles infections seem to vary for different parts of the country. Which got me to wondering why. Of course there are many, many possible reasons, but one variable might be the extent, and kind, of pro-vaccination information that people see.”

“Finally, just a couple of days ago, as the shit hit the fan over Jeni Barnett’s dismal programme, I got an e-Mail from my German-language correspondent Sceptic Eric, directing me here. This is a piece about a recent Swiss measles epidemic, including the death of a 12 year old girl from measles encephalitis (1).

Perhaps Jeni Barnett would care to read it before putting up any more ill-informed self-justification on her blog.”

Northern Doctor

“debated about blogging on this issue because there is already reams of comments on this but when reading them I have to suppress my concern that my children could get measles (because no vaccine is 100%) as a consequence of the actions of Jeni et al. So on the basis of that worrying fact I will add my voice to the clamour.

Ultimately, it can be argued that not getting a vaccine is a selfish decision at a societal level. The parents choose to shield their child from a potential side-effect of the vaccine and place other children (who have been exposed to those potential side-effects) at risk. Autonomy vs Justice. Hmm.

Sadly, Jeni is not really basing her decision on this issue.

And it isn’t really an issue at all because the risks from disease so spectactularly outweigh the risks from vaccine. I won’t go there.

Must go – got an email to Ofcom to write.”


10.0pm readings during The Little Siesta:

The Sciencepunk Blog

“Thanks to a sterling effort by a group of dedicated science bloggers and blog-readers, the whole Jeni Barnett MMR radio show has been transcribed for your reading pleasure.”

Browse it, read it, blog it, be shocked, be amazed, tell your friends, etc etc.

NHS Behind the Headlines

“So come on Jeni, strut your intellect on the bloggers dance floor. Lets see what you are made of. If you can’t do it, revoke the programme and do it now to save yourself further embarrassment.”

From the USA – Ars technica

“In some ways, the lawsuit may wind up being a public good. LBC’s legal attempt to stop more people hearing the broadcast has almost certainly failed, now that Goldacre’s cause has been taking up by the Internet community. If it results in a greater public awareness that the antivaccination movement belongs in Bad Science, that will have been a good thing.”

Orac at Respectful Insolence

“If I lived in the U.K., I don’t know if I could blog. After all, the U.K. has some of the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the world, far more so than here in the U.S., in that in a libel case it is up to the defendant to prove that what he wrote is true, not the plaintiff to prove it false and defamatory.

This time around, Ben complained about a DJ named Jeni Barnett, who is clearly an antivaccine nut and not afraid to spew her nonsense on her radio show, throwing out the usual antivaccine canards about big pharma conspiracies, the “science was wrong before” doggerel, and the claim that measles “wasn’t so bad.” Now, her radio station LBC is threatening to sue Ben over this for “copyright infringement” because Ben had posted a segment of her show in which she ranted on and on about the evils of vaccines. And she’s still doing it on her own blog:”

And a bit more on measles vaccines here too


4.0pm GMT  Readings during The Little Siesta

From Northern Doc

Look at the map, will you!!!!

Just look at the map!!!!!!!!

“It never ceases to amaze us that “measles” is frequently diagnosed by teachers who, more likely than not, have never seen a genuine case of measles. They inform school nurses who panic and issue pieces of paper to parents that say there is “measles” in the school with no confirmation of the diseases and guess what happens?

Loads of GP consultations based on the ignorance of a teacher. All such cases in the last 10 years have been due to slapped cheek syndrome a relatively mild illness.

Except if it occurs in a school where any rash in a well child is inevitably due to the Bubonic plague if you are a teacher. And rumours about the Plague spread fast at the school gates.

How do we know it is not measles?

Because we talk to public health doctors and ask them about any confirmed measles cases and notify the “measles” cases to them who then test the children and the tests are negative.

There are many arguments for immunization but the one ND thinks is most powerful is the one that goes is MMR banned in the USA?

Surely if it was as dangerous as it is claimed then someone would have successfully sued, made millions and drug companies would have dropped the product like a stone?

Has anyone done so?”

From Sceptical Dog  – FOR THE LOVE OF THE DOG

“Thanks to a sterling effort by a group of dedicated science bloggers and blog-readers, the whole Jeni Barnett MMR radio show has been transcribed for your reading pleasure.Browse it, read it, blog it, be shocked, be amazed, tell your friends, etc etc.OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER: This is a transcript pulled together by lots of people working late into the night. There will be mistakes, I’m sure, so use it as a tool to skim the show before listening to the bits that interest you. A recording of the show is available on Wikileaks, see here. You can also listen to each part via YouTube here.”

Readings taken during Witch Doctor’s little siesta at mid-day GMT 8 Feb 2009

Dr Crippen at NHS Blog Doctor:

“For those who do not already know, Ben Goldacre is a highy qualifed doctor who writes a regular column in the Guardian, entitled Bad Science. He is also responsible for the blog of the same name. His Bad Science blog has become the most respected and widely read scientific blog in the UK, and one of the most respected sources of sensible no-nonsense science in the world. Ben writes with a light touch, and uses gentle humour rather than vitriol to unmask the quacks and the pedlars of pseudo-science. Who can forget his wonderful one line dismissal of the “awful poo doctor” herself as “Dr Gillian Mckeith PhD or, to give her full medically recognised qualifications, Gillian McKeith.” Who but Ben Goldacre would go to the extreme of buying one of Mckeith’s mail order “qualifications” for his cat?

It is not right to discuss other people’s opinions if we do not all know exactly what has been said. Ben may have committed a breach of copyright but his intentions were thus honourable as he was merely trying to be scrupulously fair to Jeni Barnett.

I am advised that it is not a breach of copyright to reproduce a full transcript of the broadcast. I hope that is right, for that is exactly what I am going to do. (If the LBC lawyers have a problem with that, they can contact me at nhsblogdoc AT gmail DOT com making the usual substitutions). I think this is the only honourable way to do it. Make no mistake, Jeni Barnet is under attack and it is only fair that all should be able to read and understand exactly what she said. Before you go any further, please take a few minutes to read the transcript in full.”

Dr Rita Pal at NHS Behind the Headlines:

“If Jeni was a bright hen, she would have realised that attempts to silence the very vocal and intelligent Goldacre usually results in mass audience. Indeed, given the comments on Ben’s website, she is looking rather silly. It is clear that Jeni, like most women in the anti MMR controversy is not open to debate. Not the kind of debate scientists come forward with anyway. Perhaps she cannot argue with the scientist or perhaps she simply finds Ben to be a threat to her niche. Perhaps she should go back to reading her science books. Maybe she has never read a science book in her entire life. Perhaps that is why Jen had to get back up from her legal henchmen.

I have one piece of advice for Ben Goldacre. The anti MMR lobby tends to use the GMC as a cheap option to rid themselves of critics. It is interesting that copyright infringement is also a trick used by Scientologists to silence their critics. CCHR has pin pointed Goldacre . Goldacre doesn’t know it yet but he will in time. This should be his last MMR skirmish and he should move onto better pastures. The Ben may well learn the hard way, through the madness of the General Medical Council where no one is invincible. He won’t heed this warning of course because Ben would not have thought about the dangers to him at the present time. He will be caught up in the controversy and forget that he has a day job he needs to protect”.

Dr Grumble at Dr Grumble:

“…..Now if you look at the major political parties there are no goodies and baddies. Perhaps, especially if you look at the current financial crisis, they are all baddies. Who can be taken in by criticism of Gordon Brown when David Cameron seemed to be shouting encouragement from the wings? And with all this political greyness has come media collusion. Knocking doctors and particularly GPs at the behest of the government has become a media pastime. Health journalism, if you can call it that, has become an exercise in regurgitation of some government press release written with a Flesch score of 100. Why do journalists not realise that they are being used? Why don’t they probe a bit deeper and find the real truth? Why do they never probe and read the source documents? It is because they are lazy and they do not do their jobs properly.

What has started Grumble on this tirade? It is the realisation that we just cannot go on letting our media get away with the utter crap they churn out………

………Where, for example, were the journalists that criticised our bankers? Where were the journalists that raised concerns about doggy mortgages? Where were the journalists to inform us on the value of the mutual organisation? Dr Grumble could go on. Of course there were some good souls who did their jobs. But most just churned out what was fed to them in press releases from greedy bankers………”


You didn’t click on any of the links?

Then you are a good citizen of this land.

Unlike the bloggers, you will be safe.

That is good.

Obedience is good.

However, if you like living dangerously, you can move on to Holford Watch, the place of much information – more than I can give on measles, MMR, and a resume regarding Ben Goldacre and the happening surrounding Jeni Barnet and LBC.

It is also a place of many, many clicks.

Go there if you dare!!!

You Devil!!!

redapple.jpg a red apple ……………………

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page





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